Moneyball theory says that the closer position is basically interchangeable. For years, whether it was Billy Taylor, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Koch or Keith Foulke, the pitcher given the task to close out the 9th inning of games for Oakland didn't really seem to belabor the issue. Then came Arthur Rhodes. Up next? Octavio Dotel. I don't think I need to elaborate much more there for this crowd how that went...
The arrival of Huston Street in 2005 seemed to put the A's back in a happy place with the closer position. Despite youthful looks much more appropriate for a paperboy than a major league reliever, Street has been Mr. Reliable for the A's for two full years over the last three seasons. And now, a mere two games after we learned he too joined the ever-expanding ranks of the A's wounded, we've seen two blown saves, including tonight's disaster, which took what would have been the continuation of a magical story line involving Jack Cust and his knack for dramatic home runs, and turned it into a collective wailing and gnashing of teeth over how the A's can ever win again if the starter doesn't toss a complete game.
Despite giving up 2 runs in the first, Joe Blanton pitched masterfully tonight, at one point putting away 19 straight Kansas City batters. While he held serve, the A's figured out how to make contact with the ball, and made it a 2-2 ballgame. In the 8th, up strode Jack Cust, who with one musclebound swing, gave the A's the lead for all too brief a moment. His crown was stolen and tossed to the ground by Kiko Calero, victimized first by John Buck, and later by virtual unknown Ryan Shealy, who tapped in the winning run.
So what does Geren do with the bullpen so long as Street is out? With Connor Robertson up from AAA Sacramento, awaiting work in the A's bullpen, I couldn't figure out a better time than tonight to have gotten him some work. The Royals aren't exactly Murderer's Row, and the partially-filled Coliseum on a Wednesday night isn't exactly the most overwhelming atmosphere for a rookie making his big league debut. As far as I'm concerned, the time to throw Robertson into the mix was tonight, and it didn't happen. Too bad for us.